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Don't Wake Me at Doyles: The remarkable memoir of an ordinary Irish woman and her extraordinary life

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When seventy-year-old Maura Murphy discovered she had cancer, she left her husband of fifty years and started writing her memoirs. Born 'chronically ugly and as cross as a briar' into a poor rural homestead in 1920s Ireland, Maura lived much of her adult life in England, where she raised nine children and fought to keep together a family ravaged by poverty and alcohol. The When seventy-year-old Maura Murphy discovered she had cancer, she left her husband of fifty years and started writing her memoirs. Born 'chronically ugly and as cross as a briar' into a poor rural homestead in 1920s Ireland, Maura lived much of her adult life in England, where she raised nine children and fought to keep together a family ravaged by poverty and alcohol. The voice of a silent generation of an immigrant-Irish underclass, Maura Murphy's tough and remarkable life is a compellingly written account of struggle and survival like no other. With all the immediacy and impact of Frank McCourt's prize-winning ANGELA'S ASHES, Maura's voice is feisty, funny and fearless. And she needed to be all those things to survive an extraordinary series of privations and abuses. Her story is compelling and upbeat despite everything.


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When seventy-year-old Maura Murphy discovered she had cancer, she left her husband of fifty years and started writing her memoirs. Born 'chronically ugly and as cross as a briar' into a poor rural homestead in 1920s Ireland, Maura lived much of her adult life in England, where she raised nine children and fought to keep together a family ravaged by poverty and alcohol. The When seventy-year-old Maura Murphy discovered she had cancer, she left her husband of fifty years and started writing her memoirs. Born 'chronically ugly and as cross as a briar' into a poor rural homestead in 1920s Ireland, Maura lived much of her adult life in England, where she raised nine children and fought to keep together a family ravaged by poverty and alcohol. The voice of a silent generation of an immigrant-Irish underclass, Maura Murphy's tough and remarkable life is a compellingly written account of struggle and survival like no other. With all the immediacy and impact of Frank McCourt's prize-winning ANGELA'S ASHES, Maura's voice is feisty, funny and fearless. And she needed to be all those things to survive an extraordinary series of privations and abuses. Her story is compelling and upbeat despite everything.

30 review for Don't Wake Me at Doyles: The remarkable memoir of an ordinary Irish woman and her extraordinary life

  1. 4 out of 5

    Maureen

    A somewhat irritating memoir from Irish author Maura Murphy, that left me with mixed feelings. It’s undeniable that she had a tough life, living in poverty with 9 kids to raise, but it was a little too self- pitying for me . There were times when I did feel real sympathy for Maura, but on the other hand I found her extremely hypocritical in many instances. A little like Angela’s Ashes but not nearly as good.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    I wanted to shake the whole lot of them AND the Catholic Church!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Not as compelling as Angela's Ashes, but I still enjoyed this autobiographical account of life in a poverty stricken home in Ireland. All the drama is here, the alcohol, the abuse, the hunger, the relentless pregnancy. If you are Irish or know the Irish story, nothing here will surprise you. Three stars. Not as compelling as Angela's Ashes, but I still enjoyed this autobiographical account of life in a poverty stricken home in Ireland. All the drama is here, the alcohol, the abuse, the hunger, the relentless pregnancy. If you are Irish or know the Irish story, nothing here will surprise you. Three stars.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bill reilly

    It is a grand Irish opening, as Maura McNamee, later Murphy, was born in 1928, the third of seven children, a typical poor Catholic child of rural Ireland. The poverty was relentless, with a bucket serving as a toilet and sackcloth filled with straw used as a bed. Hunger was constant and they prayed the Rosary every day for better days which did not come. Maura left school at fourteen to work as a housekeeper in Dublin. On her first night working for the wealthy Cavanaugh’s, the girl found out t It is a grand Irish opening, as Maura McNamee, later Murphy, was born in 1928, the third of seven children, a typical poor Catholic child of rural Ireland. The poverty was relentless, with a bucket serving as a toilet and sackcloth filled with straw used as a bed. Hunger was constant and they prayed the Rosary every day for better days which did not come. Maura left school at fourteen to work as a housekeeper in Dublin. On her first night working for the wealthy Cavanaugh’s, the girl found out that the ornate baths were for family only. The domestic servants cleaned up with a jug and a basin. A man named Tom Walsh danced with her when she was 19, and after two years and a promise of marriage, Thomas dumped Maura without explanation. The chapters alternate between a lifelong biography ad a medical emergency in 1999. Maura was 70 when a continuous nosebleed landed her into the hospital. All of her children visited and awaited her test results. She met John Murphy at a dance and married him a year and a half later. An unplanned pregnancy was the reason for the marriage. John drank heavily, and when their first child was born, they lived with her parents. Within a few months, the newlyweds rented a small room in a house. John worked in a factory and money was tight. The unhappy couple moved to England to work on a country estate. John was a butler and Maura a cook and housekeeper. The work paid well and the estate gave them a beautiful place to live but Maura became pregnant again and they had to leave. John was abusive when drunk and Maura had no escape in the 1950’s. Irish Catholics did not divorce. Baby # 2 was born at Maura’s parents’ house in Ireland without John’s presence. He found a small house with no running water. A well with a hand pump was a daily journey. The couple did back breaking farm work and lived on potatoes, onions and homemade bread. A third child was born and Maura’s mother sent packages of porridge, sugar and bread every week. This reads like Charles Dickens. The memories of hunger last a lifetime. Frank McCourt wrote of the same feelings in Angela’s Ashes. His book is a work of genius, Murphy’s is not. John found a construction job in Liverpool. Maura, expecting their sixth child, moved there in 1959. No Blacks, dogs, or Irish appeared on most of the houses at the time. After eight children and two miscarriages, they lived in a government owned house for two years until the family was evicted to the curb for not paying the mortgage. Maura and her children lived in a hostel for two months and were then put in public housing with no indoor plumbing. A ninth child caused Maura’s uterus to collapse and necessitated a hysterectomy. This was a Roman Catholic no-no but she would have died within six months without it. The operation was successful but Maura needed six months in bed to recover. Severe depression followed and a shrink recommended bingo as a diversion. The game turned into an addiction. In 1972, they finally got a decent house with an indoor bathroom. They survived after John had an affair with a much younger woman, but almost divorced. Maura moved back to Ireland at sixty, while John remained in England to work. He later rejoined her and she had an operation for lung cancer. The ending is a bit surprising, but the journey is worth the read. Murphy’s story is quite a struggle, so do not expect a fairy tale.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I loved every tragic page of this memoir! Maura's life reminded me so much of my own mother's, a true down on your luck kind of Irish life. And yet there was always humour and truth. So much of how she told her story was like listening to my own mum talk, and that gave me compassion in areas where I usually just roll my eyes and think, here we go again. There were many times where I saw myself in her life, especially with her nine children and all that went along with that. I applauded her coura I loved every tragic page of this memoir! Maura's life reminded me so much of my own mother's, a true down on your luck kind of Irish life. And yet there was always humour and truth. So much of how she told her story was like listening to my own mum talk, and that gave me compassion in areas where I usually just roll my eyes and think, here we go again. There were many times where I saw myself in her life, especially with her nine children and all that went along with that. I applauded her courage in the end, and found myself feeling joy and sweet relief that she finally found the peace and quiet that she deserved after 70 years of a desperately hard life. Beautiful memoir!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Fiona

    It's hard to read about a woman being abused over and over and having kid after kid. I know she's a devout Catholic, but it's hard. On the other hand I like her cut and dried approach to life and she loved her children immensely. It wasn't a "couldn't put it down" book, but I did read it fairly quickly. It's not a must read nor is it a waste of time. A bit sad that it took her until she was 70 years to leave her abuser, but I do hope she's now enjoying life and has found her peace she so craved. It's hard to read about a woman being abused over and over and having kid after kid. I know she's a devout Catholic, but it's hard. On the other hand I like her cut and dried approach to life and she loved her children immensely. It wasn't a "couldn't put it down" book, but I did read it fairly quickly. It's not a must read nor is it a waste of time. A bit sad that it took her until she was 70 years to leave her abuser, but I do hope she's now enjoying life and has found her peace she so craved.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Weezie's

    This was a book club choice and it was agreed the person who wrote this was definitely not a writer. At times it felt like Maura was on a self pitying trip, but also showed how life was for the Irish. Poverty, drink and the unwillingness of the British to lend a helping hand was unfortunately very commonplace back then when the Irish tried to find a better place to live for their families.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sandra McIntier

    A great book by Maura Murphy, and a lady I recognise from my teenage years. Always lovely and friendly. Your book gave me comfort too, having been through an abusive marriage. Your book was well written and you have my admiration. Well done.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Emotional read A very honest memoir, that at times was hard to read. A part of me wished it ended differently. Difficult to put down and for that I gave it 4 stars.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Carver

    A lovely account of a real hard working Irish woman who lived a tough live for the majority of her life, don't they say the truth is better than fiction - and that's why I loved this book. A lovely account of a real hard working Irish woman who lived a tough live for the majority of her life, don't they say the truth is better than fiction - and that's why I loved this book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    An ‘okay’ kind of book. Some of the historical information was interesting. Finished it because I don’t like to not finish a book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Absolutely brilliant book. So well written and very insightful. Upsetting story but also happy to see it was put into words

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lori Anderson

    I picked this book up at our local used book store because it was recommended by the author of "Angela's Ashes". The book is the memoir of an Irish woman, mother of nine children and often unhappy wife to a charming but alcoholic husband. The book switched back and forth from the time she wrote the book, at age 70, and her entire life leading up to then. While the book wasn't always eloquently written, I was completely captivated with her life and all the hardships she encountered. It was amazin I picked this book up at our local used book store because it was recommended by the author of "Angela's Ashes". The book is the memoir of an Irish woman, mother of nine children and often unhappy wife to a charming but alcoholic husband. The book switched back and forth from the time she wrote the book, at age 70, and her entire life leading up to then. While the book wasn't always eloquently written, I was completely captivated with her life and all the hardships she encountered. It was amazing to me that what I thought of as a hardship was considered normal life at the time -- I just couldn't have handled it! If you liked "Angela's Ashes", you'll probably like this book as well. Recommended (and I have a copy to send you if you message me!) Lori Anderson Blog Shop Facebook Book Blog

  14. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Lots of discussion and debate provoked by this book comments include "just a bitter old woman whingeing on about her life". She was manipulative, taking the money from the sale if their house to fund her new life in Ireland. "I was to retire to Ireland and John was to join me three years later when he officially retired from the boiler house. Secretly I hoped he would stay where he was" When he comes to visit her "John was sad to be going back to Birmingham but he promised to visit me soon, I hop Lots of discussion and debate provoked by this book comments include "just a bitter old woman whingeing on about her life". She was manipulative, taking the money from the sale if their house to fund her new life in Ireland. "I was to retire to Ireland and John was to join me three years later when he officially retired from the boiler house. Secretly I hoped he would stay where he was" When he comes to visit her "John was sad to be going back to Birmingham but he promised to visit me soon, I hoped he would stay away" When her poor husband complains about all the money she's spending she justifies it thus " I'm only tryin' to make a nice home for us". Just a very depressing story of a marriage. The author is described as "a self pitying, dishonest, avaricious, horrible old woman" by Nicky who doesn't mince her words. When she's not revealing herself to be dishonest, avaricious and self pitying she is just plain tedious. E.g. "I brought all my house plants from Birmingham - a spider plant, several geraniums, and a spectacular yucca, and Olive found the right positions for them"

  15. 5 out of 5

    Fionnuala M

    Another musthave for the bookshelf!! I really love reading memoirs and true accounts of people's experiences and lives. Maura Murphy was born in Offaly and the book takes her from there, where she married her abusive husband, to Birmingham where she had nine children and struggled every day as an Irish person trying to fit in. The book switches between the present day and the past which adds an interesting edge to the story. Maura developed cancer in her seventies and decided to part company wit Another musthave for the bookshelf!! I really love reading memoirs and true accounts of people's experiences and lives. Maura Murphy was born in Offaly and the book takes her from there, where she married her abusive husband, to Birmingham where she had nine children and struggled every day as an Irish person trying to fit in. The book switches between the present day and the past which adds an interesting edge to the story. Maura developed cancer in her seventies and decided to part company with her husband and write her memoirs and I admire her greatly.

  16. 5 out of 5

    MARGO

    I was almost afraid to give my review after reading all the reviews praising this memoir. I am afraid I could not finish this very poorly written and utterly humourless,boring tale of this ordinary Irish woman. It is unfortunate that she had a hard life but so do a lot of other people. I had hope that this book would be similar to Angela's Ashes which I totally enjoyed as it was a bright and interesting story of someone who also had a hard life but was equipped with a good sense of humour which I was almost afraid to give my review after reading all the reviews praising this memoir. I am afraid I could not finish this very poorly written and utterly humourless,boring tale of this ordinary Irish woman. It is unfortunate that she had a hard life but so do a lot of other people. I had hope that this book would be similar to Angela's Ashes which I totally enjoyed as it was a bright and interesting story of someone who also had a hard life but was equipped with a good sense of humour which Ms. Murphy is seriously lacking in. Boo Hoo is all I can say.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tasha

    In my desperation for books, I´ve taken to searching the street markets everytime I pass them to see if they have anything new. I found this one and it seemed readable so I bought it for $2. It´s the autobiography of an Irish woman raising her 9 kids in poverty. Some of it is interesting but it isn´t very well written--everytime she told an antidote, she only used about two sentances and left me feeling that each memory is incomplete.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Michelle G

    I loved this book. It is a true story told in a Irish sense of black humour. This story is not unlike what many Irish woman faced at that time. I love the slang in this book. It makes it very real and while reading it I could almost hear the words being said. The issues in this book are alcoholism, poverty, the discrimination between men and woman, a story of the classes, illness and a fight for a better life.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mindy

    Awesome memoir. It was so refreshing to read a really good story written by an "ordinary" woman as stated in the title. Its heartbreaking and real and empowering all at the same time. It's total Irish dialogue and you WILL find yourself reading it with a heavy brogue. I loved it and I still find myself saying "ya" instead of you. You will appreciate your life and stop feeling sorry for yourself after reading it, that's for sure! Awesome memoir. It was so refreshing to read a really good story written by an "ordinary" woman as stated in the title. Its heartbreaking and real and empowering all at the same time. It's total Irish dialogue and you WILL find yourself reading it with a heavy brogue. I loved it and I still find myself saying "ya" instead of you. You will appreciate your life and stop feeling sorry for yourself after reading it, that's for sure!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jacqueline

    i didnt dislike this book but i didnt find it remarkable either,my biggest praise for this book would be that it is very interesting to get another persons insight in a memoir,her use of her childrens diary extracts was innovative and inspired!also, there was a real sense of honesty in this book,even though there was a big thread of self pity running through it she didnt paint herself as a saint or anything,which made the book much better.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Allison Parker

    What is written as a memoir, sometimes in diary style, of an ordinary Irish woman's life, turned out to be an interesting look of poverty stricken Ireland in times other than the famine. Maura Murphy suffered hardship and poverty but brought the happiness of a large family to life in her recounting of the years she spent in England and eventually, back in Ireland. What is written as a memoir, sometimes in diary style, of an ordinary Irish woman's life, turned out to be an interesting look of poverty stricken Ireland in times other than the famine. Maura Murphy suffered hardship and poverty but brought the happiness of a large family to life in her recounting of the years she spent in England and eventually, back in Ireland.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jodi

    This was such a sad story.I think what made it even more depressing is the fact that this was actually somebodys life.This woman (Maura Murphy) had to live through such hardship and to be honest I couldn't believe it.It was still a great memoir This was such a sad story.I think what made it even more depressing is the fact that this was actually somebodys life.This woman (Maura Murphy) had to live through such hardship and to be honest I couldn't believe it.It was still a great memoir

  23. 4 out of 5

    Vicky Smith

    Hooked, pinched this off the shelf at the villa on holiday and couldn't put it down...sad and happy all at once! Hooked, pinched this off the shelf at the villa on holiday and couldn't put it down...sad and happy all at once!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rozanne

    Very interesting book, but I think Murphy's a bit of a hypocrite/martyr. Very interesting book, but I think Murphy's a bit of a hypocrite/martyr.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Debs Awesomeo

    I yelled "Leave the bastard!" every 15 minutes or so I yelled "Leave the bastard!" every 15 minutes or so

  26. 5 out of 5

    Alison Gray

    A nice lttle read but not exactly enthralling. A life story of a normal woman. My nans life story would probably have made just as if not more interesting reading.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Angela Ryan

    A Must read....just loved it...... gritty & heartfelt....

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kay Wells

    set back in the 1920's A mother with 9 children, irish, violent husband, learning to live with cancer os that enough to make you read this book. set back in the 1920's A mother with 9 children, irish, violent husband, learning to live with cancer os that enough to make you read this book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jo

    Excellent book one of the best I've ever read in fact this book got me back into reading - couldn't put it down.... Excellent book one of the best I've ever read in fact this book got me back into reading - couldn't put it down....

  30. 4 out of 5

    Joyce Clark

    A frustrating but interesting read. You can't help thinking why does she put up with this behaviour. A frustrating but interesting read. You can't help thinking why does she put up with this behaviour.

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